Macaw Cam: Exploratory Camera Trap Techniques for Monitoring and Conservation of Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) Nests

Project Overview

In this study, we explored new, low-cost camera trap techniques to monitor Scarlet Macaws in one of their last two self-sustaining habitats in Costa Rica. Camera trap monitors have begun to produce new insights in avian research and we use them not only because Macaws are threatened, but their imagery can be used to enhance the public’s understanding of the connections between science and conservation efforts. We mounted camera units on two trees with nesting Macaws in Costa Rica’s Carara National Park and monitored one nest remotely for seven consecutive months.


The camera recorded digital video and still images effectively in a harsh tropical environment. New observations of defensive behaviors and nocturnal activity were captured including the more common occurrence of nest poaching by iguanas and the uncommon predation by kinkajous, a mammal typically characterized as an herbivore. The camera traps have illuminated the role of natural poaching and inform the design of conservation strategies to enhance Macaw nesting success. Moreover, the archival footage enhances scientific understanding as well as providing information to educate park visitors and local communities about the impacts of natural predation and human poaching on the Scarlet Macaw lifecycle. The methods used in this study simultaneously contribute to conservation science, inform policy, and provide a foundation for education through participatory ecological monitoring.


Read our Working Paper on the Macaw Cam.